Spain, Lithuania look to clinch quarter spots

ATHENS - The two undefeated group leaders in Olympic Men's Basketball, Spain and Lithuania, face challenges from familiar European opponents on the third day of the tournament, Thursday, 19 August at Helliniko Indoor Arena. Victories would assure both teams passage to the quarterfinals.

Sitting on the top of Group A, Spain (2-0) must deal with defensive-minded Italy (1-1) in order to preserve its unbeaten record. While Spain relies on the tournament's third leading scorer after two games, forward/centre Pau GASOL (23.5 points per game), bench strength helped it overcome Argentina in its last victory.

Seven different Spanish players have had double-figure scoring games so far.

Italy (1-1) lacked a go-to player in losing to Serbia and Montenegro in the final minutes on Tuesday, but its solid team defence will keep it close in most games.

Group B leader Lithuania (2-0) faces a difficult date against host Greece (1-1).

Lithuania's 16 3-point strikes, by seven different players, subdued dangerous Puerto Rico in the last game. The Lithuanian bench poured in 47 points in the victory.

Point guard Sarunas JASIKEVICIUS leads all passers in the tournament (6.5 assists per game). He'll have a worthy test against the next best assist man, tall Theodoros PAPALOUKAS (5 apg.), who directed Greece (1-1) in a close loss to the United States on Tuesday. Forward Antonis FOTSIS scored 22 against the USA, while big man Lazaros PAPADOPOULOS (17.5 ppg.) continues to play well inside.

Another intriguing matchup comes in Group B, where Argentina (1-1) and China (1-1) are both looking to avoid costly second defeats. Centre YAO Ming put China back on track with 39 points and 13 rebounds against New Zealand and is now the tournament's top scorer through two games (25.5 ppg.). Argentina faltered against Spain after its miracle first-game win, but found an inside scorer, forward Luis SCOLA (19 ppg.), to go with Emanuel GINOBILI (22 ppg.).

Group B also starts the action Thursday morning as Serbia and Montenegro (1-1) meets winless New Zeland (0-2), who must fight for its survival.

Point guard Igor RAKOCEVIC (19 ppg.) and forward Vladimir RADMANOVIC (17 ppg.) helped Serbia and Montenegro barely overcome Italy for its first win. New Zealand is getting almost a third of its points from shooting guard Phillip JONES (19 ppg.) and ranks third in team rebounds, but has been luckless in losing two games by a total of nine points.

Back in Group A, the United States (1-1) looks to keep on track against Australia (1-1).

The USA overcame host Greece in a tight second game thanks to the leadership of guard Allen IVERSON (16 ppg.) and centre Tim DUNCAN (14.5 ppg.), who is also the tournamentâ?™s leading rebounder (12.5 rebounds per game). Australia got good inside play again from teenager Andrew BOGUT (13.5 ppg.) in posting a win over Angola, but will have its work cut out for it against the USA.

Finally, Puerto Rico (1-1) will try not to slip up against Angola (0-2). Though it has two of the tournament's top five scorers, Carlos ARROYO (24.5 ppg.) and Elias AYUSO (20 ppg.), the Puerto Ricans allowed too many three-pointers in a loss to Lithuania. Angola is unlikely to match that scoring power, so must defend to survive.